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  • Michael Kerman

Thank You, Mother Nature

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

After a several months of productive consulting and somewhat productive job searching, I decided to get away for a few days. It wasn’t fancy; just me and some of the local guys going camping for four days. I’d done a similar trip a few years ago and it went off pretty well, so I figured “what the heck”. So, it was off to Western PA for some camping, hiking and rafting.

Well, I just got back and while I had a great time, I found the trip far more moving and inspirational than I ever expected. This is especially because I am a left-brain kind of person… scientific, analytical and not particularly philosophical. Nevertheless, I came back from this little trip with some important lessons-learned.

1. The Joy of New. I thought about going back to the same place we camped several years ago, but chose a new campground in western PA instead. The campground was new, the

river we rafted on was new to everyone in our group and all of the local activities (biking, sightseeing, etc.) were new to us.

This meant every day was a new explore and had a degree of unpredictability. The weather was different every morning and changed several times each day. So what, right? Well, it actually made me realize that I don’t have to go 200+ miles away to experience new. Every day I wake up is a new day and I can determine how much routine stuff I do versus how much I change things up and create new experiences. Even if it only means a new restaurant, new route to work, new place to hike or new book to read… there is “new” all around us.

2. The Power of Friendship. Between everyone’s changing schedules, commitments to work, kids and family not to mention the frequent travels to Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Philippines and more, you can become a bit detached from even your local friends. Even when we do get together locally, we don’t usually spend much time talking about anything (or ourselves) in depth. A few days spent in the woods, sleeping in cabins and eating meals together is such a powerful way to rekindle and even intensify the friendships. You learn that everyone has their own set of challenges, concerns and worries, even if they seem totally in control and at peace on the surface. So often, we feel that our challenges at work or with our family are so unique and overwhelming when in reality, we’re really not alone at all.

3. The Invigorating of Hard Work. If you’ve ever been camping (and I’m not referring to ‘glamping’ or staying in a 30-foot motor home with 3 flat-screen TVs), you know that it can be a fair amount of work. Without all of the modern conveniences like a sink, refrigerator, stove and so-on, preparing dinner for 7 people can be challenging. Building the fire, cooking the food, clean-up… it takes a fair amount of work. Equally tiring are all of the activities we did throughout the day. Whether it was whitewater rafting for 5 hours, biking 20 miles, hiking or sightseeing, trekking around the mountains can be tiring. All of this made the cold beer or the warm shower at the end of the day so much more appreciated. Many of us leave increasingly sedentary lives and this was a reminder that getting out and doing things, while not easy, feels so good. Now that I’m back home, I’m going to keep the habit going and despite the hot summer weeks remaining, increase the amount of physical labor and exercise. It just feels good.

4. The Amazement of Nature. I’ve been camping on-and-off since I was six years old, so being out in nature and amazed by its beauty is nothing new. Or is it? Every time I’m camping among giant trees or hiking to gorgeous waterfalls, I’m amazed.

When night comes in the woods and everyone’s campfires and campsite lights are out, it gets so dark you can’t see five feet in front of you. However, when you look up, the sky is magnificent; it’s like your own planetarium. There are more stars than you ever imagined. In fact, this time we were lucky enough to see meteors or “shooting stars”, a new experience for many in our group. When I see and experience all of this, I smile. I’m reminded that there is beauty right around us; we just have to make an effort to seek it out… and take good care of it.

5. The Importance of Love. On the way back to Philadelphia, several of us decided to take a short detour to visit the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, PA. As reminder, that was the hijacked flight that would likely have crashed into Washington DC had it not been for the passengers who attempted to regain control of the plane. All aboard perished on September 11, 2001. For me, that day is raw and still fresh in my memory. I find it difficult to think and talk about that day but felt it was my duty as an American to take time to honor those brave people. Among all of the exhibits inside the beautifully-designed memorial are several of the recorded calls from passengers on the doomed airliner to their friends and loved ones. I could neither imagine having the poise to make such a call or coming home after work or shopping to hear those final words on voicemail or an answering machine. It’s just another reminder that we should live every day to its fullest and make time in our crazy, hectic lives to show the love to those we care about. .. After all, nobody guarantees us a tomorrow.

So, what does all of this mean? First, it means I had a great time and have a lot of laundry to wash and stuff to clean up and put away. More importantly, it means I need to stop worrying so much about things I can’t control and spend more time on me… on things that make me happy, things that make me feel productive and on the relationships that truly matter to me. Yes, I know it shouldn’t have taken a 4-day camping trip to western PA to figure that out, but I’m glad it did.

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